John McCain unveils his environmental policy tomorrow in a speech as part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Decision 2008 Series. We’ll likely take a look at the speech tomorrow, but given that today is Earth Day, it seems appropriate to look back at McCain’s ethanol flip flop. It gained some attention in the fall, and we highlight it again here, but more interesting, is which candidates actually drive fuel efficient vehicles based on their support of energy conservation policies.


John McCain has long opposed ethanol. When he campaigned for president in 1999 and 2000, he barely visited Iowa. An anti-ethanol position in the state with the first primary is political suicide since the state is the biggest producer of corn in the country. According to CNN,”…and in Iowa ethanol isn’t just another campaign issue. It’s the cash cow, the golden goose and the fountain of economic youth all wrapped up in one.”

Again ccording to CNN, McCain reiterated his position in November of 2003:

“Ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn’t create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it….Yet thanks to agricultural subsidies and ethanol producer subsidies, it is now a very big business – tens of billions of dollars that have enriched a handful of corporate interests – primarily one big corporation, ADM. Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality.”

In August of 2006 McCain did a complete about face. The AP reported McCain said at a speech in Grinnell, Iowa:

“I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects.”

Given that ethanol is so important to Iowa voters, it’s not surprising that in addition to McCain, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudolph Guiliani, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney (the six candidates Reality Check covers) all support ethanol. But given all sorts of commitments to energy conservation, do these six candidates drive fuel efficient vehicles? A recent Business Week article took a look at what the candidates drive.

Despite McCain‘s flip on ethanol, the Straight Talk Express bus does not run on ethanol or an environmentally friendly fuel source but on diesel. Senator John McCain also owns a Cadillac CTS, which is not very fuel efficient either.

Bill Clinton recently customized a Mercury Mariner hybrid. Senator Hillary Clinton also uses the car.

Senator John Edwards bought a 2007 Ford E scape gas-electric hybrid. He also owns a Chrysler Pacifica and GMC Sierra.

Governor Mitt Romney drives a Ford Mustang GT, Cadillac SRX, and Chevy Silverado.

Senator Barack Obama drives a Chrysler 300C sedan, which only gets 20 mpg. However, his campaign owns a flex-fuel GMC Yukon. It only get 17 mpg, but given that it runs ethanol certainly helps in Iowa.